Sam, 23, was born in the L.A. area, moved to San Diego when she was 12. She attended El Cajon High in Oceanside. But “nothing was really normal, ever,” about her childhood, she said. Her mother suffered from mental health issues and would have “episodes” that sent everyone running for cover. Sam eventually got thrown out at age 16.
She ended up on the street, but she was wary of trusting anyone and kept to herself. She avoided the drug scene while other young girls were selling themselves for a quick high or a place to stay. They hated her for it and one day beat her up gave her something that made her overdose.
“I died three times,” Sam said, matter-of-factly. “When I was leaving the hospital, I went to retrieve my belongings and they arrested me because I still had the drugs in my system. I was 18.”
Sam credits her street mom for watching out for her, keeping her safe, even when a man she was dating, and who fathered her child, got out of hand and began hitting and abusing her. One night it got so loud the neighbors called the police and he was arrested. Her birth father got her to come home at that point. She “got her shit together,” she said. She moved out into an apartment of her own, found a job waitressing and bartending, met a U.S. Marine at a bar, who became a friend, now her husband.
She’s proud of her own determination to resist the pernicious downward spiral most young vulnerable women succumb to on the street. Sam’s defense is to ignore the gossip and backstabbing going on. She feels there needs to be some outreach for the benefit of street youth. “You’ve got a lot of young people that either are runaways, which, they shouldn’t be runaways, they need to realize they’ve got what’s good for them. Regardless if you don’t like your parents’ rules or not, you’ve got a roof over your head, food on the table and clothes on your back.”
Her husband recently deployed and Sam gave notice at the bar where she works. She and her daughter are moving to Texas to move in with her in-laws, whom she says are amazing people. “Now that I’ve got a family I’ve gotta protect my daughter. That’s another reason I’m moving out of here.... It’s not a good area for her.
“I’m married, I have a beautiful child, a beautiful family,” she said. “Life couldn’t be no more better.”